Donating body

A woman talks about why she has decided to donate her body to medical science:

A Parting Gift is a two-part series which secures unprecedented access to tell the story of the Body Donation Programme at Trinity College, Dublin.

Filmed over 18 months, the programme focuses on ‘the gift’ of body donation: an act of real generosity that contributes to world-class medical education, research and scientific endeavour.

The documentaries captures different perspectives on the body donation:  from the motives and life-stories of donors to the experience of their bereaved families; the staff of the Anatomy Department who receive and prepare remains; and the medical students (past & present) who benefit from a donor’s parting gift.

The documentaries encompass science & medical history, cultural attitudes towards death & bereavement and the big questions of mortality & spirituality.

Most importantly, it will be about the humanity of those giving the gift, those mourning the loss, those dealing with the donation and those learning from it.

In Ireland, almost 30,000 people die every year. Of those, about 120 have left a very precise instruction; to donate their bodies to medical science and education. Unlike organ donation, the person decides to gift their entire corpse to one of Ireland’s six Medical Schools. In the Anatomy Department at Trinity College Dublin, the Body Donation programme is overseen by Joint Chief Technical Officers Siobhan Ward and Philomena McAteer.

Their job is to look after each new donor , as well as their bereaved families. Every September, in accordance with their final wishes, 12 new donors are brought into the dissection theatre for the entire academic year, to begin their role as
‘silent teachers’. This is their parting gift. The programme follows a dozen 1st year students as their education is enriched by direct contact with the donor remains.

Made with the support of the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland.

A Parting Gift is the first instalment in a season of programmes on RTÉ One, entitled Once in a Lifetime, which explores aspects of, and attitudes towards, death in Ireland.


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